Madison Cunningham Shares Story Behind 'Hospital' from Upcoming 'Revealer' LP
Credit: Claire Marie Vogel
Blending modern folk-pop, jazz undertones and an unmistakably genuine old soul reminiscent of '70s singer/songwriters Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt, Madison Cunningham earned, this year, her second Grammy nomination for an expanded version of her EP, "Wednesday." Though the record is made up entirely of covers, there are times when the sincerity of her voice convinces you that the songs are hers.
Most recently, she released the single, "Hospital," which will appear on her upcoming album, "Revealer," due to be released Sept. 9.
"This song was kind of like a hodgepodge of all of these lyrics that were on my iPhone notes," she said.
The result of combining those thoughts overtime has created an intriguing mystery for even the artist herself.
"I don't know necessarily how this thought would have led to this thought, but it did. I guess it's like, when you open yourself up to the process or to just sit and be still and wait, I think sometimes those things will land in your lap."
For the song's structure, a friend of Cunningham's challenged her to only use five chords. That was no simple task for an artist known to mix elements of jazz in her music.
"I love throwing in a lot of different chords and different twists and turns, so I think the challenge for me was far more in the melody and the lyrics."
For the song's arrangement, she drew, in part, from her musical heroes. The single's relatively simple mix of vocals, guitar, bass and drums was inspired by folk musician and genre-spanning producer, Jon Brion.
"Without too much thought, I kinda just went into that world," she said.
And if the song's instrumental break reminds anyone of a certain popular band from Liverpool, it's not a coincidence.
"I absolutely love the Beatles," she said. "At this point, I don't really trust anyone who isn't a Beatles fan."
She covered the Fab Four's classic, "In My Life," on her "Wednesday" EP, recorded during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The state of the world led her to not include an original song on that 2020 release.
"For me as a songwriter, I just felt so paralyzed and had no idea where to turn or what to say. I didn't know what was my business to talk about, and I think it was a comfort to hear songs that had existed," she said. "Cause I felt like I was pining so hard to create things that hadn't been said before."
"It was hard to know what was okay to even put out into the world without feeling like it was drawing too much attention or being insensitive, or whatever it was. Maybe me taking a moment to play other people's songs...was an easier listen."
But she hasn't let the pandemic get in the way of her perseverance as an artist – in fact, she's thrived during the 2020s.
"All I know how to do is to just keep my hand on the plow and to keep working," she said.
As she works, she remembers not to covet anyone else's career and to forge her own path instead.
"It's easy to just kind of lustfully watch what's happening for other people and wish that it was yours, but I think everyone has to take their own musical journey and do what's right for them."
Madison Cunningham's headlining tour, "The Revealer Tour," will kick-off in September. Prior to that, she will be supporting select dates of Lake Street Dive's tour, including a stop in Chesterfield, Mo. at Chesterfield Amphitheater on Aug. 14.
"I just absolutely love live music and playing songs for people, so I'm beyond thrilled to travel the states," she said.